It’s no secret. I love NPR. From the time I get into the office in the morning until I get home in the evening, I listen to NPR. I yell at Faith Middleton, cry at This American Life, and rock out to the Tiny Desk Concerts. I give to my local station once a year. So you can imagine how irate I am that republicans are trying to do away with federal funding for public media. As a journalist, it makes me even more angry.
I’m listening to On Point discuss the latest debacle involving my chosen media outlet. One caller suggested NPR would be better off without federal funding and that it would raise more funding if it was more inclusive in “cultural, non-elitist terms.” I have mixed feelings about this.
First of all, as Slate pointed out recently, NPR has been trying to be more inclusive — and getting annoying, angry letters from some of its readers about its attempts. Second, when I hear “cultural, non-elitist terms” I hear, “Please dumb down your coverage and just tell us what to think like the other news networks do.” But I also do find some of the programming — or perhaps, more accurately the hosts — a bit elitist. Honestly, it’s like Faith Middleton has no idea there is a crappy economy or that anyone other than the aging upper middle class would listen to her show (now I just switch to NPR podcasts when she comes on). On the other hand, shows like Snap Judgment are finally getting a younger, less white middle-class voice on the airwaves.
Somewhere along the way, though, presenting news as news became elitist. Exploring a topic in depth and with great care to present both sides of a story became too much for people to handle. Any media that doesn’t spew the far right point of view (*ahem, FOX*) became liberal. NPR is just about as close to “fair and balanced” as the media gets — that’s not elitist. Nor is it elitist to present a wide range of topics and experiences. What I find elitist is this insane notion that we need to spoon feed information to the rest of America, because apparently FOX and other networks think they’re too dumb to sort through the information themselves.
Even more disturbing is the idea that so many people are willing to jump on that FOX bandwagon, declare all balanced journalism to be “the liberal media,” and completely abandon the idea of a free, independent (and unbiased) press. There certainly is a liberal media out there — Mother Jones and The Nation come to mind — but NPR is not it. And it’s a sad state of affairs that people can’t see that.